Newham Bookshop logo (2015)

Friday 22 November
at The Wanstead Tap

Decline and Fail

John Crace
Decline
and Fail

Read in Case of Political Apocalypse

Friday 29 November
at The Wanstead Tap

Award-winning
poetry with

Raymond Antrobus,
Salena Godden
& Nikita Gill

Saturday 30 November
from 10 am to 5 pm
at Newham Bookshop

Christmas Discount Day

20% off all books from
our wide-ranging stock

Wednesday 4 December
at The Wanstead Tap

We Fight Fascists

Daniel Sonabend

We Fight Fascists

In converstion with Michael Rosen

Regional Winner

Independent booksellers and publishers work for future success

This article was written in March 2006

Cautious optimism about independent publishing and bookselling was the theme of a discussion between independent booksellers and publishers at Wanstead Library in March, as part of the Redbridge Books and Media Festival 2006. The discussion was chaired by Newham Bookshop’s children’s book specialist John Newman.

John Calder, who has been a publisher since 1949 and a bookseller for the last five years at the Calder Bookshop, has championed authors who were often shunned because of their views, and fought the tendency to censor books that expressed important ideas. He accepted that the best times for his business were the 1960s, but the company continues to be modestly successful. Serious readers still wish to buy his books, including poetry books, and books by authors such as William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett, and so the company remains viable.

Will Atkinson, sales director of Faber & Faber Ltd, explained how his company continued to respond to the challenges posed by the developments in publishing and bookselling. The Net Book Agreement, which maintained prices and prevented discounting, was scrapped ten years ago, but the impact of this change only became significant in the last year or two.

Independent publishers can publish work by new authors without a track record, or books which are difficult to fit into an established category. An example of this was Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, which was the surprise success of 2003. Will Atkinson explained that the underlying costs of publishing had fallen, as a result of developments in technology, and this was making it easier for new publishers to enter the market, and had also made self-publishing more possible than in previous years. Many authors started by publishing their own books, and then joined established firms who published their subsequent titles.

Will Atkinson explained how Faber had got together with a number of other small independent publishers to provide a one-stop shop for the buyers from the major chains and the supermarkets. This enables the individual publishers to continue to make their own decisions about what to publish, but allows them to have a single conversation with the buyers and get better deals as a group than they would as individual firms.

On the bookselling side, John Cairney, who manages John Calder’s bookshop in Waterloo, described his experiences of bookselling over 20 years. He considers that independent booksellers will continue to exist because they provide the personal service that the chains are not able or willing to do. They make recommendations to customers, using the computer for research, but being keen to come out from behind the counter and point out books on the shelves. They also take orders and can get most books within a day or two. They tend to stock a wider range of titles in their specialist areas although they are not able to hold large stocks of any particular title, and so customers are more likely to find something to attract their interest.

The Calder Bookshop reaches out to its loyal customers by holding weekly readings and talks, and these are appreciated by those attending who will also buy the featured books. Vivian Archer of Newham Bookshop stressed the need for independent bookshops to work in their local communities to provide the range of specialist titles that will appeal to them. In the case of Newham Bookshop, this means that we do many events which appeal to our diverse community and include discussions of books about the East End and its communities, including novels and non-fiction. Our customers are keen on books about football and footballers, because of the shop’s proximity to West Ham’s Upton Park ground.

Vivian Archer echoed the ability and the need for independent booksellers to provide excellent customer service, ordering books not in stock and making recommendations and providing support to customers who may not be confident about using a bookshop.

Will Atkinson made the important point that many people, who tend to buy few books, will buy in Asda or Tesco, but would be unlikely to visit a bookshop. This meant that their supermarket purchases were increasing the volume of books sold overall, without reducing the number sold in bookshops. Medium to heavy book-buyers (those people who buy eight or more books a year), which make up around 70% of the book-buying public, are tending to get fed up with the 3-for-2, pile-them-high, sell-them-cheap approach of the major chains, and are coming back to independent booksellers for the advantages they offer in terms of support and service. They are willing and often happy to pay the higher prices as they genuinely appreciate what their local bookshop offers.

Newham Bookshop has been trading in one of the poorest boroughs in the UK for 28 years, and it has never been easy to survive. In spite of the very difficult commercial environment for independent booksellers – and for their counterparts in publishing – the meeting ended with a feeling of optimism for the future.

– David Ceen

John Calder, publisher and founder of the Calder Bookshop in Waterloo, London SE1, died on 13 August 2018, aged 91.

Forthcoming events


Friday 22 November at 7.30 pm
at The Wanstead Tap

John Crace
Decline and Fail
Read in Case of Political Apocalypse

Friday 29 November at 7.30 pm
at The Wanstead Tap

Raymond Antrobus,
Salena Godden
& Nikita Gill

Wednesday 4 December at 7.30 pm
at The Wanstead Tap

Daniel Sonabend
We Fight Fascists
The 43 Group and Their Forgotten
Battle for Post War Britain

In conversation with Michael Rosen

Past events and news


Suresh Singh
A Modest Living
Memoirs Of A Cockney Sikh

An Evening with
Lucinda Dickens Hawksley
Part of Redbridge Fabula Festival 2019

Eleanor Crow
Shopfronts of London
In conversation with Krissie Nicolson

Lucy O’Brien
Janette Mason and David McAlmont
Dusty in Words and Music

Carl Cattermole
Prison: A Survival Guide
In conversation with Deborah Coles

Jenni Murray
A History of the World
in 21 Women

Daniel Rachel
Don’t Look Back In Anger
In conversation with Paolo Hewitt

Esther Rutter
This Golden Fleece
A Journey Through
Britain’s Knitted History

Book Benefit for the
homeless in Newham

Launch party for
Luan Goldie
Nightingale Point

Ronnie le Drew
Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
Zippy and Me

David Rosenberg
Rebel Footprints
in conversation with Asad Rehman

Pete Brown
Pie Fidelity
In Defence of British Food

Carol Ann Duffy
Poetry for the Insect Population
with Andrew McMillan, Matthew Hollis, Imtiaz Dharker, Zaffar Kunial,
Mark Pajak, Hannah Sullivan,
Sean Borodale, Ella Duffy
and Yvonne Reddick

David Hepworth
A Fabulous Creation
How the LP Saved Our Lives

5x15 on The Future of Education
with David Kynaston, Priya Lakhani, Alex Beard, Owen Jones,
Melissa Benn and Kate Clanchy

Cold War Steve
The Festival of Brexit
in conversation with Martin Rowson

Lucinda Gosling
Shirley Baker and Vintage Britain

Robert Elms
London Made Us
A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City

Newham Word Festival logo
Michael Rosen
with Danny Braverman

Newham Word Festival logo
Bobby Seagull
The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers

Newham Word Festival logo
Suresh Singh
with Stef Dickers

Newham Word Festival logo
Duncan Barrett
Hitler’s British Isles

Newham Word Festival logo
Kate Thompson
and Melanie McGrath

Newham Word Festival logo
Regeneration Songs

Newham Word Festival logo
Asian Noir:
the new wave of crime fiction

Luke Turner
Out of the Woods

Danny Dorling
Rule Britannia
Brexit and the End of Empire

Doreen Fletcher, Paintings
with The Gentle Author

Benjamin Zephaniah
The Life and Rhymes
of Benjamin Zephaniah

in conversation with Cilius Victor

Peggy Seeger
First Time Ever

E. Foley and B. Coates
What Would Boudicca Do?

Bobby Seagull
The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers

Will Ashon
Chamber Music
Enter the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces)

Robin Ince
I’m a Joke and So Are You
A Comedian’s Take on
What Makes Us Human

Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate
The Inking Woman

Iain Sinclair
Living with Buildings

1968 and After:
Culture and Education

An evening with
Shami Chakrabarti and Rachel Holmes

Martin Rowson
The Pen is Mightier Than the Word

Ed Vulliamy
When Words Fail

Marcus Sedgwick & Dr Sam George
The Battle of the Books:
Frankenstein v. Dracula

Kenney Jones
Let the Good Times Roll

Ben Okri and special guests
Rise Like Lions

Adam Dant
Maps of London & Beyond

Sarah Ivens
Forest Therapy

Shore 2 Shore
with Carol Ann Duffy
Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay
and Maura Dooley, with music by John Sampson

Viv Albertine
To Throw Away Unopened

Melanie McGrath
Pie & Mash Down the Roman Road
in conversation with Duncan Barrett

James Bloodworth
Hired
Six Months Undercover
in Low-Wage Britain

Chris Difford
Full Acoustic Show
Some Fantastic place

Michael Rosen
So They Call You Pisher!

David Hepworth
Uncommon People
The Rise and Fall of the
Rock Stars 1955-1994

Liam Young and Simon Hannah
The Labour Party, past and present

Misha Glenny: McMafia
Seriously Organised Crime

Helen Pankhurst: Deeds Not Words
The Story of Women’s Rights,
Then and Now

Laura James and Jessie Hewitson discuss autism

Literary Natives
Writers of Colour Meet Up

John Davies: The Red Atlas
How the Soviet Union
Secretly Mapped the World

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